Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Bella just announced that she is a vegetarian. My dog is on Prozac. My husband has been home 2 days the entire month. And Dash has strep throat.  I'm not complaining. I'm just listing. Seems like a good week to write about someone else's life.  Here's my friend Jen in action in her kitchen.
Jen is one of the strongest women I know. She is a Pilates teacher, a cyclist, a yogini, an obsessive seeker of new information, and a serious cook. When she has some time off she goes to the middle of nowhere and climbs rocks. For fun. We always laugh at our differences because my idea of a break is five days in New York City. Other than nature (and her husband), Jen's other big love is cooking. In the kitchen, she is a confident, focused (even with a camera in her face), spontaneous, and inspiring cook. And very efficient.  In the brief period I visited, she prepped meals to get through most of the next week. Here's her lovely roast chicken.
Jen's windowsills were lined with empty CSA milk bottles and egg cartons. She belongs to three CSAs! The jar in the window was filled with all the ingredients for my Red Pepper Purée. She was my first tester for this recipe. I know that readers have been making my recipes, but it was surreal and touching to see it happening in person.
She was also testing out my meatloaf recipe. The recipe has been passed down through four generations of women in my family—from my great-grandmother all the way to me. We've all tweaked it at some point over the past 50 years. My grandmother mixed in sour cream, my mom incorporated the multiple ground meats, and now I've added added red pepper purée. We'll see if Bella has anything to add considering her current predilections.  

It's a very straightforward recipe. Just mix together cracker crumbs, sour cream, milk, egg yolks, red pepper purée, ground meat, and lots of parsley. Jen is three times faster than I am at crushing crackers with her bare hands. She could kick your ass big time in a dark alley.

Use your hands. It's very satisfying and it's the only way to break apart the meat and incorporate all the great flavors. The red pepper purée is very salty due to the anchovies so don't add much additional salt.
Jen had an idea for the leftover meatloaf mixture that didn't fit into the loaf pan: meatloaf cupcakes. Genius. They also cooked really fast. For the final 15 minutes, she topped them with additional  red pepper purée and some pine nuts. I got the pine nut topping idea from the New York Times recipe for Spicy Garlicky Meatloaf.
I ran into Jen the other day at yoga and she was going home to make duck confit and chicken stock. A little Sunday morning yoga followed by some hardcore butchery. Delightful. I think I'll join her next time. But I'll leave Bella at home.

Meatloaf variations:
1. Replace the crackers with bread crumbs or a combination of bread crumbs and wheat germ (my mom's tip).
2. Replace the red pepper purée with any kind of pesto. I'm thinking sun dried tomato pesto would be great.
3. Replace the milk with buttermilk.
4. Try adding other herbs along with the parsley like sage, oregano, or thyme (in moderation).
5.  The leftovers make great meatloaf sandwiches. Smear toasted bread with Red Pepper Mayonnaise (mixture of 1/2 mayo  + 1/2 red pepper purée) and then pile on a slice of meatloaf, crunchy lettuce, and chopped pickles.

serves 10-12 

This recipe is inspired by four generations of women in my family. Each generation has tweaked it a bit. I've listed the family meatloaf recipe below this recipe.

Use any combination and size of loaf pans and cupcakes pans. It will bubble over a bit so don't fill the meatloaf mixture up to the top of the pan. Place pan(s) on a sheet pan to catch the drips. 

20-25 Ritz-like crackers (I used Late July rich butter crackers -- no high fructose corn syrup or other bad stuff in them)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1  cup Red Pepper Purée (3/4 cup is add to the meatloaf and 1/4 cup is for the final glaze)
2 1/2 pounds ground meat (1 lb ground chuck plus any combo of lamb, veal, or pork)
salt and pepper (not too much salt because red pepper puree has a lot)
1/3 cup pine nuts 

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Crush crackers by hand or in food processor. In a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, milk, egg yolks, parsley, and 3/4 cup red pepper puree. To this mixture, add ground meat (or meats), crushed crackers, and salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until all ingredients are evenly distributed. This will take a few minutes.

Spread into loaf pans or cupcake pans. Bake for 1 hour (cupcakes only take 30-40 min). Remove from the oven and glaze the top with a thick coating of red pepper puree. Generously sprinkle pine nuts all over the top. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until bubbling and nicely browned. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Most of the liquid will reabsorb back into the meatloaf, and that's where you want it.

printable recipe 
 Makes 2 loaves, each serving 4-6 people. Extra loaf may be carefully wrapped and frozen. Thaw completely before cooking.


2 dozen crushed Ritz Crackers
parsley, finely chopped (a lot)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 lb. ground chuck
1/3 lb. ground veal
1/3 lb. ground pork
1/3 lb. sausage meat
1 to 2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
pinch thyme
salt and pepper
dash Worcestershire sauce
4 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Crush crackers with rolling pin or in a Cuisinart or blender. Place the crackers in a large bowl or in a mixer. Add the parsley, onion, garlic, meats, eggs, sour cream, thyme, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire.

Mix gently by hand or use dough hook if using a mixer. Add enough milk to make a runny mixture that will just barely keep a shape in the loaf pan.

Divide mixture between loaf pans. Cut bacon slice in half and lay 4 halves crosswise on top of each meatloaf.

Bake for 1 hour or until done.


  1. This looks wondeful - I like the red pepper puree added/ And the pine nuts are a great idea

  2. Sorry to hear about your "list", hope it's changing for the better now;

    I'm always on a lookout for a good meatloaf recipe, so I will try to make yours sometime next week. :)
    I usually make mine with ground turkey, I wonder if it would work in this recipe?

  3. LHM: thanks!

    M: i think it would work well with turkey. my only concern would be the lack of fat/flavor. but the red pepper puree already has a lot of fat AND flavor. not sure how it would be with the family meatloaf. i'll ask my mom if she has ever used turkey. loved your market post, btw. beautiful!

  4. This looks amazing! Can't wait to try! Love that Bella!

  5. Loved seeing jenny in her kitchen and your commentary... awesome! This meatloaf recipe will be tested this weekend with some to spare for freezing (hopefully!).

  6. I'm just listing.. ha! I'm pretty impressed with both of you. Have been reading your blog for a while, just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying it.

  7. P, your posts always make me so hungry. I only wish you and I could eat together more often:)" Gotta whittle down our "lists!"

    I'm so glad you changed your profile to include your stints in professional kitchens. I think readers will love knowing this part of your cooking history.

    Isn't your blogaversary coming up? I'm getting ready to sing the birthday chant to D&B.

  8. I have made the family recipe with ground turkey in place of the beef and yes it works very well - and sometimes I have used part turkey and
    part beef. Also good. - Phyllis' Mother

  9. This is a great, classic meatloaf. I loved it and will make it again!

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